IPSO Blog: Five years on

As of the 8 of September, IPSO is five years old.

When we started work the atmosphere was febrile. On day one there was a demonstration outside the office and it seemed that some people thought that if they shouted loud enough we would close up shop and go home.

We were never going to do that, but it was hard work at times looking to provide the best service we could to the public, knowing that some of those people would never acknowledge the work we were doing, however well we actually did.

In five years, IPSO staff (we’re not huge, there are 20 of us) have dealt with over 65,000 complaints and enquiries. Sometimes that has been thousands of complaints about a single article and at other times it’s been someone distressed that they think their privacy has been breached or that a paper has written something about their kids that it shouldn’t have.

We’ve also issued over 300 advisory notices to editors, telling them that someone, for example a grieving family, doesn’t want to talk to the media. Almost always this has the desired effect – the family are left alone, even if previously there had been lots of journalists and photographers outside their house. 

A key feature of IPSO is that it isn’t just a complaints handling organisation. We also have a Standards function that looks to encourage publishers to raise editorial standards and to help the public understand how the press work.

Over five years we’ve issued guidance for editors on issues ranging from coverage of transgender issues to reporting deaths and suicide. For the public, we have produced information leaflets on subjects from how journalists use social media and how the press cover courts.

Over five years IPSO has emerged as a maturing regulator that generally has the confidence of those we regulate, although at times they vehemently disagree with our rulings.

Although we're not a Government organisation and they have no influence over what we do, the Government was sufficiently reassured with IPSO’s progress that it decided not to enact legislation that would have made the press liable for costs in court cases, even if they had won, and decided not to proceed with the second part of the Leveson inquiry.

As IPSO enters its sixth year, all bar two of the nearly 90 publishers it regulates have decided to stay within the IPSO scheme for another five years. IPSO isn’t perfect after five years, and there will always be critics and opponents, but the organisation is in much better shape now than many expected it would be.

The next five years will see significant changes in the industry IPSO regulates. IPSO will be dynamic in how it regulates to match those industry changes, while still providing a responsive service to members of the public who feel they have been treated unfairly by the press.